Projected starters at tackle
Drew Richmond (LT); Junior; 6’5″ 316 lbs; Memphis, Tenn.
Once a five-star recruit, Drew Richmond’s career with Tennessee football has been up and down. However, it’s safe to question the coaching that regard given all the other issues on the line. With three years of experience playing college ball now, clearly a ton of talent, and the right staff behind him, Richmond should finally be able to flourish. Fully healthy, he could be the star of the line that everybody always expected him to be. And as the blindside tackle, he clearly brings high expectations. Now is the time to live up to them.
Chance Hall (RT); Junior; 6’5″ 328 lbs; Roanoke, Va.
Chance Hall hasn’t been fully healthy in three years. But he’s back to full health now, and as a result, he should be ready to go this Fall. I remember too well how good he was during that 2015 season. With the right training staff and right coaching, there’s no reason to believe he’s not ready to return to form with the Vols. As a result, Hall should be the guy to line up opposite Richmond at tackle, and he’ll prove that this Fall Camp after missing spring practice.
Projected starters at guard
Riley Locklear (LG); Sophomore; 6’4″ 293 lbs; Huntington, W. Va.
The transition from a spread to a pro-style is much easier to make on the inside than at tackle simply because the same rules apply for guards and centers. As a result, Riley Locklear should be good to go. He got experience playing last year down the stretch, and he started at guard during the spring game this past year. One of the true rocks of the interior line who is actually durable, Locklear was once a four-star on Rivals. This should be the year he emerges under a new head coach.
Trey Smith (RG); Sophomore; 6’6″ 320 lbs; Jackson, Tenn.
Tennessee football’s one bright spot on the offensive line last year, Trey Smith missed all of the spring due to an injury. But he’s back now, and we know how good he is. This is one part of the line that comes with zero questions. Smith is a star and should have no trouble continuing his elite play on the offensive line this year. He may need some time to get back into football shape, but he’s clearly the one player on the line that you can look at as a clear bright spot. As a result, there’s no reason to believe he’s not going to keep his spot at right guard. And at 6’6″ 320 pounds, his size makes him a perfect fit for Jeremy Pruitt and Tyson Helton.
Projected starting center
Brandon Kennedy; Junior; 6’3″ 301 lbs; Wetumpka, Ala.
Tennessee football had numerous questions at center this year after the losses of Coleman Thomas and Jashon Robertson. Only one player was coming back with any experience there. However, the addition of graduate transfer Brandon Kennedy changes everything.
Once a four-star recruit, Kennedy has been working at center for two years under Nick Saban, studying under two totally different offenses as well. But they were both pro-style offenses, and that makes the redshirt junior the most qualified to step in and run the show here. He is coming back from an injury, so that’ll be rough. But Kennedy has played on the field in a pro-style system for Saban. So his experience matches his potential, and that’s why he should be the immediate starter here.